Schooling success

 For more than 15 years, Lawrence Fisher and Dr. Lesley Epstein have owned and operated successful preschools in the South Florida area. The success of Cambridge Schools – and the need for better education – drove the two to franchise the school concept and expand into other regions.

Today there are four Cambridge Schools with 180 employees, and Fisher and Epstein plan to add 15 more schools within eight years. Revenue in 2005 was more than $8 million – a 38 percent increase over 2003 – and if Fisher and Epstein can replicate their success in other regions, Cambridge Schools’ revenue will continue to rapidly increase.

Smart Business spoke with Fisher about how he plans to expand into new regions and the importance of brand recognition in expanding Cambridge Schools.

What are you doing to build a brand?
We have obtained a service mark for the Cambridge name and worked diligently to ensure the name is synonymous with high-quality preschool education.

We know what we do – we teach preschoolers so that they are socially and academically ready to enter the school system. Our focus is always on this goal.

Why is getting a service mark so important to building a brand?
Every business with a successful model works to develop to the point of instant recognition as a leader in their field. This effort takes a commitment both from employees and in dollars.

The success of (our) model is evident in our programs but is represented by our logo and curriculum. To ensure that when parents see the Cambridge name associated with a preschool they are getting the program developed by us, we have obtained a service mark.

How will developing a brand help the company grow?
Internally, every new school has multiple successful models to learn from and follow. When we show new employees how we do it, they will know we are using a tried and successful method. For our new customers, the best method for ensuring that Cambridge will deliver the best in preschool education is to show we do exactly that in other communities.

How do you plan to grow to 19 schools over the next eight years?
First we have to get a location. And once we get a location, the building has to be built. All future buildings will be the same as the ones we’ve already built, so we don’t have to redesign or reinvent anything.

As far as supplies or equipment, we also have a nationwide supplier, and they supply all our goods. We have a complete listing of what we need at each classroom. As far as people to run the units, we will be bringing them to South Florida, directors and assistant directors, to work with the schools in South Florida, to see how it is done the Cambridge way and to educate them and assist them in hiring in their local areas.

We plan on a cluster of three in one year and then two clusters the following year and two clusters the year after that.

How will you maintain consistency and quality across a large number of schools?
We focus on three elements. First is the facility. We have worked with our architect over several years to design buildings that support the education and playful nature of preschoolers. The design has met with very positive reviews from the parents of our students, as well as our employees.

Second is our curriculum. The curriculum was developed by our owner, Dr. Lesley Epstein, and guides our teaching methodologies. The curriculum is everywhere in our schools and is evident both in the organization of the school day as well as the materials we have chosen.

Finally is our teaching staff. Every new director spends significant time at an existing school to learn how we do things. The teachers are carefully guided through our handbook, which details how to organize a room, conduct a school day, talk to children, our dress code, etc.

Once operating, each school is under the direct supervision of our executive director, who ensures that Cambridge policies are properly practiced and visible, hence our uniformity.

HOW TO REACH: Cambridge Schools, (954) 217-8566 or www.cambridge123.com

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